Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are reminding boaters that while warm spring days are enticing to get out on lakes and rivers, in many locations, the ice has been gone for only a few days or weeks and the water is still cold.
"Boaters need to be aware that while we have been experiencing record and near record high temperatures, our water temperatures across the state are in the low 40s to low 50s," said Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa DNR. "At that temperature a boater who falls in the water can only last about one hour before becoming unconsciousness."
Stocker said of the two boating fatalities this spring, neither boater was wearing a life jacket, and both had gone out alone.
"Boaters need to get in the habit of putting on a life jacket before starting the motor. It is a simple thing that really can save your life," she said. "We also stress to boaters and paddlers to not go out alone. Lakes and especially rivers are changing systems and involve a level of risk each time you go out, but especially during high water or when the water is cold. If a person is alone and they fall in, their chance of getting rescued is not very good."
The weather forecast is calling for more seasonal temperatures and precipitation for the upcoming weekend, which Stocker said may slow the rush to the boat ramps.
"We want our boaters to enjoy a safe season on the water. It may be a good idea to allow the water temperatures to rise before heading out," she said.